The impact of the Coronavirus crisis is being felt by everyone, within every business across the world. Life has changed, and quickly, in a way that we’ve never experienced before.
For retail, some categories have been impacted more than others. The UK government announced that all retail outlets, except those considered to provide essential goods and services, were to close; while online retail could continue.
Shifts in consumer behaviour and a move to work from home presented an immediate focus on household necessities and a push for better home office equipment. Sales of board games and jigsaw puzzles increased 240 per cent during the first official lockdown week as families looked for entertainment
The operational business changes for retailers, but also the change in consumer behaviour has a natural impact on the requirement for marketing communications.
Communication is critical
Proactively letting customers know what’s happening with your retail business is a clear reason to communicate, whatever the state of change is.
For some, it is about sharing changes regarding hygiene practices and warehouse practices to allow the business to continue; for others, it’s about changes to working hours, product availability, and delivery services.
It has never been so important to go ‘behind the scenes’ to share what’s happening in your business.
The role of social media
During this period, social media platforms have an important role to play in providing up-to-date information to customers. For both physical store retailers that have had to close, and for online retailers still operating.
All social media platforms have reported increasing usage, which has put some strain on networks, while presenting challenges for their staff who are also now working from home.
Each platform has also continued its battle fighting the spread of fake news and misinformation, taking steps to keep people safe and correctly informed with prominently positioned information centres as part of their feeds.
Looking at the mission statement for each platform is a useful reminder of the role they play, for both consumers and businesses, in helping everyone to stay connected. I have also noted the key support that has been added by each platform (at the time of writing) to support users during the crisis.
Facebook: To give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together
Facebook launched a ‘community help’ platform where people can either offer assistance to others in their community or request help with tasks – such as shopping.
Facebook has also added a ‘care’ reaction to the like button to help people show support.
A $100 million small business grant program is on its way and tools to help businesses communicate with their customers include page options to list temporary changes.
A COVID-19 resource hub can be found at www.facebook.com/business/boost/resource
People are also creating new Facebook groups for communities to share information and provide support.
Who is eligible for the Facebook Grants Programme?
Up to 30,000 eligible small businesses in more than 30 countries will be able to receive the grant. To be eligible to apply, you must:
Have between 2 and 50 employees
Have been in business for over a year
Have experienced challenges from COVID-19
Be in or near a location where Facebook operates
To apply, visit www.facebook.com/business/boost/grants
Instagram: To capture and share the world’s moments
Instagram has added various cause-related ‘stickers’ for Story users, including ‘Stay Home’, ‘I Stay Home For’ and ‘Thank You Hour’, encouraging its users to highlight how they are staying home and staying safe. Instagram is sharing the Stories on their own accounts.
Initially available in the US and Canada, a new gift card feature is due to roll out globally.
Twitter: To give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly without barriers
Twitter has created several useful guides for brand communications, with a particularly important point to keep abreast of changes and to adjust communications accordingly, saying “What might have felt like a good message yesterday might not be the right thing today”.
LinkedIn: To connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful
LinkedIn has supported its members by unlocking access to a number of its online learning courses, including management, sales, marketing, finance and self-care.
Social media content
Whichever platforms you use, the most important factor in current communications is to show empathy and compassion. It’s important to acknowledge the crisis that’s affecting everyone around the world and be highly mindful of the content you’re sharing.
While you do not need to mention the virus in every single post but using phrases such as ‘we recognise the uncertainty…’ can be useful. Tone of voice has never been more important and user research by Twitter highlighted that only 7 per cent of their respondents said brands should continue using their normal tone of voice. Thankfully there haven’t been too many examples of poor tone of voice and most brands avoided traditional April Fool’s campaigns this year.
Being mindful also means avoiding imagery which shows activities and attractions with large crowds.
While this is a deeply serious crisis, the research also highlighted that 70 per cent of respondents wanted brands to boost positivity and share positive stories. Some retailers have cleverly adapted messaging, for example, Fashion retailer H&M adapted its post captions on their social media posts to highlight how you can be safe and fashionable at the same time. TM Lewin used sponsored ads to light-heartedly show how to best dress for a conference call.
Here’s some more social media tips for communicating during the crisis:
- Create a COVID-19 FAQ page on your website, and direct people to it via social media
- Pin important information posts to the top of your timelines on Facebook and Twitter
- Update any service changes on your Facebook Page, to do this go to Page Settings > Page Info > Temporary Service Changes
- Share ways you are offering help to the wider community, including key workers and NHS staff
- Involve your customers. Engagement on social media is always key, but now is a great time to connect with your audience by asking people how they are, how you can help and to invite them to share pictures of your products in their homes.
by Luan Wise, marketing consultant, LinkedIn Learning course instructor and accredited Facebook and Instagram trainer.